Saturday, 9 July 2016

July 9th Strumpshaw Fen

I'm back at Strumpshaw for two reasons. One: for common blue butterflies, hornets and water scorpions and Two: for the annual staff and volunteer BBQ. It wasn't looking promising during the morning with a heavy downpour, just your typical British BBQ weather. But this afternoon, the weather improved and it got quite humid. I felt like I had sweated a bucket load from my brow as I went for a walk around the reserve.

Grey Heron
Scarce Chaser
I decided to check the brambles along the woodland trail first. As well as hornets and common blues, I wanted to find a white admiral, too. Though white admirals are not a target for the Strumpshaw 40 challenge (though they should be), I always enjoy seeing them every year. I waited around the brambles for some time, constantly swatting the flies that buzzed around me, hoping to see one fly down from the tree canopy to land on the bramble flowers. The entire bramble patch was buzzing with life, from bees to hoverflies and from dragonflies to butterflies. There were scarce chasers, southern hawkers, large skippers, meadow browns and commas, but sadly no common blues or hornets. I did see a large bird, possibly a buzzard, briefly land in a tree above me before a crow chased it away. This commotion caused a white admiral to glide downwards briefly, swooping over the bramble area before I lost sight of it.
Scarce Chaser (again)
Common Darter
Meadow Brown
Large Skipper
Southern Hawker
Mating Damselflies

With little success in the woods, I searched the bird's-foot trefoil along the Sandy Wall path, but still no luck with the common blues. I found lizards, warblers and black-tailed skimmers as well as large skippers and ringlets, but the common blue is still no where to be found.
Common Lizard
Large Skipper
Black-tailed Skimmer
Sedge Warbler

BBQ time!
By the time I returned to the Reception Hide, people were starting to gather in the courtyard for the BBQ. Before we could eat, though, Tim, the reserve's manager, gave us an update talk about future plans at Strumpshaw and that they are planning to build a new visitor centre next to the Reception Hide as well as other plans for the buildings in the courtyard. It all sounds interesting and exciting, but may not happen for a few years yet. After the talk, a white admiral was spotted on the tiles of the office building's roof. I was just about to take a photo of it when a passing train disturbed it, causing it to fly around the courtyard. At the same time, a pair of hornets were investigating the same roof, but they too moved away just as I was about to take the shot! I was so close to ticking hornet off the list! How frustrating!!

Strumpshaw's birthday cake!
We had to bring our own food with us and with so many of us here, I had found enough space on the BBQ for my burgers and sausages. Dad then turned up to join in with the BBQ cooking as I started tucking into them. Their was a lot of people I know here and they were happy when I started showing them my latest wildlife diary (which is handwritten and full of my own drawings and photos just in case you didn't know). As this was the first time since December with all the volunteers and staff together, we hadn't really celebrated Strumpshaw's 40th anniversary. So a birthday cake was made, complete with amazing icing sugar sculptures (including one of Cobber the resident black swan)! It was a wonderful chocolate cake and there was just enough for everyone.

After the BBQ, we split up into two groups. One went for a walk around the reserve, while the other group went pond dipping. I did the latter of course as I was still trying to find a water scorpion. But even with all the staff member's children involved, the best we could find was a leech and a lot of pond weed. The search of the elusive water scorpion continues!

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